Mideast "linkage" is the notion that more distant issues like the Syrian civil war and/or Iran's race to nuclear weapons could in some significant sense be related to important questions touching Israel, such as the current negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
With respect to linkage, recently published is Aaron David Miller's Wilson Center essay entitled: "It's Iran, Stupid: The real, unspoken reason America won't get involved in Syria." Miller's piece turns on insights offered by President Obama in a valuable January 27, 2014 New Yorker article by David Remnick. But, President Obama there refers, not to linkage between matters involving just Iran and Syria, but rather to a connection among his top three Mideast issues, namely some problems relating to Israel, Syria, and Iran:
Obama told me that in all three of his main initiatives in the region — with Iran, with Israel and the Palestinians, with Syria — the odds of completing final treaties are less than fifty-fifty. “On the other hand,” he said, “in all three circumstances we may be able to push the boulder partway up the hill and maybe stabilize it so it doesn’t roll back on us. And all three are connected."Astonishing is President Obama's assessment that there's less than a 50% chance of success for the three sets of now separate negotiations about Iran, Israel and Syria respectively. Equally striking is his assertion that these three persistent problems are somehow interwoven.
Really? Are they substantially linked? If so, how are they connected? Or is it that President Obama is significantly telling us that he will take steps to connect them? The likely link could be that, in each of these three instances, President Obama might soon try to make Israel foot the bill.
This is likely what President Obama is now thinking in terms of "next steps" after the predicted failure of the three sets of separate negotiations. And, perhaps there might be a fair chance of "success" for his likely strategy of addressing the three issues as one problem in a single negotiation. This might work, principally because Russia, China and Iran could perhaps perceive that his plan might enhance their own interests -- including by weakening the USA, which President Obama peculiarly wants out of the Mideast.
With respect to his expectation that the current negotiation with Iran would likely fail, President Obama is perhaps planning for an early diplomatic crisis. He might want this to coincide with the expected collapse of the bilateral peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Specifically, President Obama seems to want the three issues of Iran, Israel and Syria to align in the short term -- and in any event, well before the November 2014 USA midterm elections, after which Congress might perhaps have more power to block him.
With references to "international peace" and also some empty threats to use force against Iran, President Obama would perhaps first posture dramatically, but then move quickly to exploit the perceived crisis in order to get Iran to solemnly agree to go no further than "threshold nuclear State," just like Japan.
For this (perhaps worthless) commitment from Iran, he might try to pay in gold coin, i.e. by denuclearizing Israel's defense. Namely, President Obama is perhaps planning to trade off Israel's nuclear weapons for a piece of paper promising that Iran would stop short of actually building a nuclear bomb. This would dovetail with the President's strong emphasis on gradually creating "a world without nuclear weapons" and the relevant regional reference in his June 2009 Cairo speech.
Shafting Israel in the cause of "international peace"? Sounds like something that would be wildly popular in the Muslim World and among left-liberals in the USA and globally. Though Gallup continues to show that Israel is the Mideast country that Americans view most favorably (72%), President Obama's gambit has that angle of peace-loving plausibility likely to appeal to some USA independents. Such a "peace" policy would also help him continue his stubborn efforts to divide Jewish Americans from Jews in Israel. And, it might even win him a second Nobel Prize.
In this same diplomatic constellation, President Obama might try to compel Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights to buy Iran's consent to some sort of a peaceful outcome in Syria. If so, the measure would likely be proposed by the USA and agreed by the other countries currently negotiating with Iran. These are collectively called the P5+1, i.e. the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany.
Part of this ambitious package would perhaps also be creation of a new Palestinian State in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. But, we should also recall that President Obama has several times specifically promised a "contiguous" Palestine. Thus, there may be an attempt to equip the new Arab country with a land bridge linking Gaza with the West Bank; or Israel might even lose all the Negev. If so, this radical truncation would be imposed to "preserve the peace of the world," via agreement of Iran and the P5+1.
Once the fate of the Jewish State is to be decided entirely by foreigners, who knows what would happen and where it would end? For example, with an eye to the safety of the citizens of Tel Aviv, remember that references to “international peace and security” were also used to justify NATO bombing of Belgrade in 1999. That strange military operation was designed to force the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia) to withdraw from Kosovo. Perhaps the prospect of applying similar military pressure on Israel was exactly what motivated President Obama to choose, as Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel who was widely known as cold to the Jewish State.
Despite the camouflage, President Obama really is making every effort to do to Israel in 2014, what was done to Czechoslovakia in 1938. This message was already a subtle subtext in his June 2009 Cairo speech. From his first day in office, President Obama was tenaciously targeting Israel not Iran. In essence, President Obama always intended to spin the Iran crisis into a device for rendering Israel virtually defenseless -- just as in 1938 Czechoslovakia was strategically crippled by the cession of the Sudetenland.
If so, there is certainly cynical dissimulation in President Obama's frequent trumpeting of both Israel's "right to exist" and a promise to always back the "security" of the Jewish State. Such sly equivocation would be fully consistent with the existence of nothing more than a truncated Israel, the security of which then would really have to depend mostly on the USA.
Is there a better explanation for President Obama's stunning assessment that the three separate negotiations are likely to fail and for his curious claim of interconnection of the substantive matters touching Syria, Iran and Israel? If so, I would be relieved to know it. But if not, this word to the wise should suffice.